BROOKINGS-The Mitchell High School girls tennis team failed to defend its Eastern South Dakota Conference title on Thursday in Brookings. The Kernels finished in third with 221 points, while Watertown won the tournament with 342 and Brandon Valley (268) finished in second.
All of Mitchell's singles players reached the semifinals but were never able to break through for a championship, as Watertown won five of the six singles flights, along with the No. 2 doubles flight.
"I'm a little disappointed in where we were at," MHS head coach Pat Moller said. "We were hoping we could challenge Watertown for that title, but we'll lick our wounds and get back into practice and get ready for state."
The top singles performers for Mitchell were Atlanta Stahle and Olivia Huber as both made the championship match. In Flight No. 5, Stahle fell to Watertown's Raeanna Zink 10-2 in the championship match, while Olivia Huber lost to Watertown's Sadie Moran 10-5 in Flight No. 6.
The No. 2 doubles tandem of Kiersten Bathke and Madison Bohlen advanced to the championship match with wins of 10-0 and 11-9. In the finals, Watertown was victorious again, with Megan Hauger and Mackenzie McClemans winning, 10-6. The No. 3 doubles team of Amber Moller and Stahle also reached the finals, but were upended by the Aberdeen Central duo of Emily Ringgenberg and Megan Thone, 10-6.
"Those girls at the bottom aren't going to hold those flights unless we have those front spots," Moller said. "Those girls did what they needed to do, but they were only given that opportunity because of the depth our team has. In that regard, it's a team effort whenever we go out there."
Mitchell's No. 1 singles player Avery Larson started the tournament with a 10-5 win over Huron's Kayla Harvey to reach the semifinals, but couldn't get past Megan Fannin of Watertown in a close 10-7 loss.
Larson played Yankton's Josephine Krajewski in a match for third place, though couldn't regain her form from earlier in the day, resulting in an 8-3 loss.
"That Watertown girl dominated her in the regular season and it was nip-and-tuck all the way. She was right there," Moller said. "At the end, there was a pretty key deuce point that set it all. She ended up going down 7-8 and never recovered."
In No. 2 singles, Kelsey Dahme took down Brookings' Abby Enevoidsen 10-2 in the first round. She fell 10-4 to Megan Hauger, of Watertown, but won her third-place match 8-2 over Mirra Frohling. Madison Bohlen also finished in third in Flight No. 3, taking down Yufeng Peng, of Aberdeen Central, 8-3.
Kiersten Bathke lost 8-4 in her third-place match to Yankton's Maddie Binder.
In No. 1 doubles play, Larson/Dahme took fourth as they fell to Krajewski/Olivia Tennant, 9-7, in the third-place match.
The Kernels play at state in Rapid City on Oct. 4 to 6.